Dramatist and playwright, Jack Thorne, is to deliver the flagship James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at this year’s Edinburgh TV Festival.

Thorne’s shows, films and plays range from His Dark Materials, Kiri, This is England 86,88 & 90 and The Virtues to Enola Holmes, The Secret Garden, Don’t Take My Baby, The Solid Life of Sugar Water and Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. As a disabled professional, Thorne is a vocal champion, campaigner and ally of other disabled creatives both in front of and behind the camera.

At a time when questions are being asked about how the industry and society at large treats those who are under-represented, Thorne will put disability centre stage. His lecture will focus on the need for greater representation, platforming the voices of disabled professionals– both visible and invisible – and the role the TV industry has to play in defining a more accessible future, underpinned by his own life experience and drive to use his position and voice to influence change.

As well as his forthcoming Channel 4 drama, Help, starring Stephen Graham and Jodie Comer, Thorne has co-written (with Genevieve Barr) a new BBC factual drama Independence Day? How Disabled Rights Were Won (w/t) starring Ruth Madeley, based on the true story of the people behind a campaign of direct-action that lead to the winning of disabled civil rights in Britain.

Of his lecture, Thorne said “I am ridiculously honoured to be asked to deliver this year’s MacTaggart lecture. It’s an opportunity I never anticipated, but an opportunity I am determined to use. This country has a glaring problem at the moment and it’s in its treatment of disabled people. In the last two years people have died who didn’t need to, and those that survived were treated appallingly, ignored and shut out. We lived and live in a two-tier society, those with ‘Underlying Health Conditions’ (a disgusting term) and those without. Our industry has a record of shutting out disabled voices itself but now has an opportunity to step up and take responsibility, both for its history and its future. We are the empathy box in the corner of the room and we can change things. I am far from the perfect advocate for this but will do all I can to further this vital conversation.”

Those who have taken the stage to deliver the MacTaggart before include Dorothy Byrne, Ted Turner, Armando Iannucci, Rupert Murdoch, Dennis Potter, Jon Snow, Elisabeth Murdoch, Michaela Coel and last year’s speaker, David Olusoga.

I’m beyond excited that Jack will be delivering the MacTaggart lecture this year,” said Georgia Brown, Head of European Originals, Amazon Studios and the festival’s Advisory Chair for 2021. “Jack is a staggeringly talented writer whose words have brought into being some of the most memorable dramatic moments of British television. I can’t wait for him to share his perspective with us all after possibly the strangest and most challenging years in our collective history. He will bring his wisdom, wit and fierce intelligence to the Edinburgh stage – I hope you’ll all join us to hear it.”

The Festival’s Executive Chair, Fatima Salaria said: “The MacTaggart Lecture is a defining moment in the Festival’s calendar and has the power to inspire and instigate meaningful change. It gives an opportunity for reflection on our industry, to analyse and celebrate the good but also to identify that which needs to change. Jack’s is a voice that speaks from experience and allyship and will give a much-needed platform for those who feel they have none, in the eloquent and powerful way we have so often seen in his work. I have no doubt that it will make for essential viewing and is rightly deserving of the global conversation that the MacTaggart Lecture inspires.”

Picture credit: Antonio Olmos

Jon Creamer

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